An automobile, also called a car or motorcar, is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transportation. Most automobiles have four wheels and an internal combustion engine fueled by a fossil fuel, such as gasoline, diesel, or kerosene. They are considered a symbol of modernity and freedom, and have transformed society in many ways. People use automobiles for a variety of reasons, from getting around town to taking trips with family or friends. Some people even rely on cars to get to work and school.

The first automobiles were steam powered and attached to wagons in the 18th century. They were slow and unreliable, but as technology improved they became faster and easier to control. By the 20th century, it was virtually impossible for a modern person to live without access to an automobile.

Some people may use their car as a status symbol or to impress others. The automobile also gives them the ability to carry more cargo and go further away from home for shopping, work, or visiting friends.

Most people will also agree that the automobile is one of the most important inventions of the 20th century, and has changed the world forever. It allows for more personal freedom and has created new industries. Automobiles have allowed humans to use the surplus of fossil fuels on the Earth and make travel much faster than it was in the past.

The United States possessed a huge land area, a relatively low per capita income, and an equitable distribution of income, which made it easy to sell automobiles at a reasonable price. Cheap raw materials and a long manufacturing tradition also encouraged the mechanization of production processes. These factors contributed to the success of Henry Ford’s Model T, which introduced modern mass production techniques and put America on wheels.

In the postwar era, engineering was subordinated to the questionable aesthetics of nonfunctional styling and the higher unit profits that Detroit could generate from gas-guzzling road cruisers. These factors eroded quality and safety and contributed to the social costs of air pollution and draining dwindling world oil reserves.

Today, the automobile is the world’s most common mode of transportation and has become a dominant influence on culture, economics, lifestyle, and politics. The future of the automobile remains to be seen. However, it is likely that new forces will converge to supplant it in the near future. The information age is melding with the automobile age into a new Age of Electronics. In this age, information will be transmitted more rapidly and inexpensively and new forms of entertainment will emerge. The automobile has provided the foundation for the development of a highly mobile culture that is becoming increasingly dominated by electronic media. This cultural phenomenon is often referred to as the twilight of the American Dream. As this happens, it is possible that the automobile will lose its role as a progressive force in American life. This will be replaced by new technologies that will chart the future of a global civilization.